There’s no arguing that Fendt’s 205hp 820 Vario has been a strong product for the premium tractor maker, particularly in its home country, Germany, where it has been the best-selling tractor for the past three years.
But, like many ranges in this hp bracket, the time has come for an upgrade and, to meet new emissions legislation, a new engine.
This comes in the shape of the compact, but high hp, 700 Vario series, which fits neatly alongside the existing 800 and 900 ranges. Made up of three models, the 200hp 720, 220hp 722 and range-topping 240hp 724, each is powered by a six-cylinder 6.06-litre Deutz engine, equipped with SCR emissions technology.
Fendt now offers seven models between 200 and 300hp across three ranges. Why? “We’re market leader in the over-200hp range,” explains Mr Shelton, “but some customers want different sizes of 200hp-plus tractors. For some, the 822 is simply too heavy a tractor, whereas the 700 is a light, but equally powerful machine. It’s easy to put weight on a tractor.”
In fact, there are three models with an output of 240hp: the 724, 824 and 924, with the main differences being in weight and size. Compared to the previous 820 range, which weighed 7.18t, the new 720 weighs in at 7.9t with the 824 Vario, launched last year, coming in at a more substantial 9.3t. The larger 924 weighs 10.7t.
One of the most obvious cosmetic differences is the new VisioPlus cab which has been completely (and not before time) revamped. A novel, curved windscreen gives operators an undisturbed view from windscreen to the roof, while the typical B-post on the right-hand side has been completely removed. When mounted with a front loader, the upward angle of vision has tripled, says Fendt.
The skinny bonnet (which still manages to house a beefier cooling system) coupled with a narrow steering column, improves the view to the front considerably, too.
The new range gains features from the existing high-hp tractors, too, like Fendt’s Variotronic display and armrest. The terminal, which is touchscreen and available in either 7in or 10in screen sizes, is home to all tractor controls, Isobus implement controls, auto steer and multi-camera display.
There are now three suspension options: the existing two-point mechanical or pneumatic, or a new three-point option with a central arm and front and rear air struts, which has been passed down from the existing 800 and 900 ranges. There’s also a new frame and rear axle.
Front axle suspension and front linkage are both standard, as is the multifunction armrest and Varioterminal. Like the larger 800 and 900 ranges, all tractors come with a chipped key.
The rear lift gains load compensation when lowering and raising implements, regardless of implement weight, and pressure-relief control at the front keeps things steady.
Another hydraulic addition is VarioActive steering, which uses the valve that enables the automatic steering system to alter the wheel ratio when steering. The result is impressive, with only a few turns of the wheel resulting in super-quick manouvres.
More novel features include a light on the steps, which turns on automatically when the operator opens the door, and a new cushioned passenger seat that doubles up as a handy stowage compartment and table when folded, giving an almost car-like sophistication to the cab.
It’s a fairly compact tractor for its hp and the first thing that strikes you is the sheer amount of light in the cab. In fact, due to nearly 6sq m of glass, there’s probably enough to grow some tomato plants or perhaps even a melon or two.
Thanks to the shared operating platforms between the 800, 900 and now 700 ranges, the 724 was remarkably straightforward to drive and proved to be a real get-in-and-go machine. But even for drivers unaccustomed to the Fendt philosophy, the 700 won’t be too challenging.
Small can, indeed, be powerful. And, on our short drive, the 700 Vario certainly seemed to pack a punch. The 50kph Vario transmission, which works both in pedal or joystick mode, was more than ample on the road, and although the field we were cultivating was particularly dry, the 720 had no problem pulling a 6m cultivator.
With a Fendt Cargo 5X front loader, the new windscreen gives drivers a clear view for stacking bales or bedding up, although mounting 200hp-plus tractors with a loader tends to be a particularly Germanic procedure. Couple this to the addition of VarioActive steering, and turning is a doddle.